Dr. Sandra Juutilainen
Health System Impact Fellow Profile

Dr. Sandra Juutilainen
Host Partner Organization:
Public Health Ontario
Name of Host Partner Organization Supervisor:
Dr. Heather Manson
Location (city, province):
Toronto, Ontario
Academic Institution:
University of Waterloo
Name of Academic Supervisor:
Dr. Rhona Hanning
Title of Fellowship / Program of Work:
‘In the spirit of peace, friendship and respect – relationships with our partners’


I took a nomadic route to pursue my PhD, starting with an undergraduate degree from Ryerson University in Food and Nutrition. Thereafter, I completed the Yukon First Nations Dietetic Internship, a program coordinated with London Health Sciences Centre, Ontario and Whitehorse General Hospital, Yukon Territory. Following 10 years of working in the area of Indigenous health in Canada, I moved abroad to complete a Master of Health Science program in the area of Circumpolar Health at the University of Oulu, Finland. I wanted to stay in Finland for personal and professional reasons and I was successful in getting funding and completed my PhD in Health Sciences in June 2017. I applied for the Health System Impact Fellowship because I thought it would be a good way to re-build my contacts in Canada after living abroad for 6 years and I was attracted to the fellowship opportunities for diverse skills development.

Fellowship Program of Work

The objective of the project is to address the question: How can a provincial public health agency engage meaningfully with Indigenous organizations and communities and respond to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) Calls to Action for Health through its organizational vision, mission and mandate? An internal examination of Public Health Ontario (PHO) as the case of a provincial public health agency that provides scientific and technical advice to the public health sector will be completed to identify: strengths, challenges and exemplars of PHO’s practices in engagement with Indigenous organizations and communities. PHO’s mission: ‘We enable informed decisions and actions that protect and promote health and contribute to reducing health inequities’ aligns with the TRC’s Calls to Action for Health, by providing direction on how to reduce inequities in health at the structural level. This project will facilitate a greater understanding of the capacity and future direction of PHO to undertake the work of implementing the TRC Calls to Action for Health and provide tangible evidence of PHO’s commitment to reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples in Ontario. By example, PHO can share best practices and future directions to all public health units and other key actors at the provincial level. The work within PHO will be complemented by research in collaboration with University of Waterloo to describe experiences and perceptions of foods in relation to Indian Residential Schools; and, the community-led programs designed to improve food access and food sovereignty in Indigenous communities that acknowledge historic, contemporary and cultural realities.

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